NFL suspends Saints coach, ex-coordinator over bounty program
Saints head coach Sean Payton's one-year suspension begins April 1 as a result of his team's bounty program.
March 21st, 2012
02:01 PM ET

NFL suspends Saints coach, ex-coordinator over bounty program

[Updated at 2:01 p.m. ET] The NFL is suspending former New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams indefinitely and Saints head coach Sean Payton for one year because of the team's bounty program, the league said Wednesday.

The Saints also will be fined $500,000 and will forfeit their second-round selections in the 2012 and 2013 NFL drafts, the league said.

In addition, the league is suspending Saints General Manager Mickey Loomis for the first eight regular-season games of the 2012 season, and Saints assistant head coach Joe Vitt for the first six regular-season games, the NFL said in a statement.

“A combination of elements made this matter particularly unusual and egregious,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in the statement. “When there is targeting of players for injury and cash rewards over a three-year period, the involvement of the coaching staff, and three years of denials and willful disrespect of the rules, a strong and lasting message must be sent that such conduct is totally unacceptable and has no place in the game.”

The NFL reported this year that the Saints paid defensive players a bounty for injuring opponents as well as making interceptions and fumble recoveries during the 2009-2011 seasons. The program involved as many as 27 players and at least one assistant coach, the league concluded following an investigation.

The league said the program was administered by then-defensive coordinator Williams - who now holds the same position with the St. Louis Rams - with the knowledge of other coaches. Players regularly contributed cash to a pool, which may have topped $50,000 at its peak.

The players were paid $1,500 for a "knockout," when an opposing player was not able to return to the game, and $1,000 for a "cart-off," when an opposing player had to be carried off the field. In some cases, particular players on the opposing team were targeted, the NFL said.

After the program was reported on, Payton and Loomis said they took "full responsibility" for the practice, which they said "happened under our watch."

"These are serious violations, and we understand the negative impact it has had on our game," Loomis and Payton said in a statement this year.

Also Wednesday, Goodell sent a memo to all teams instructing them to certify that they have no bounty program. Each principal owner and head coach must make the certification in writing to the commissioner by March 30, the NFL said.

“Bounty programs have no place in our game,” Goodell said. “They are incompatible with our efforts to promote sportsmanship, fair play and player safety.”

Goodell will review Williams’ status after the 2012 season, and will pay "close attention to the extent to which Coach Williams cooperates with the NFL in any further proceedings," the NFL said.

Williams' suspension is immediate, while Payton's begins April 1.

Saints quarterback Drew Brees wrote a letter to fans following the investigation's conclusion, saying he was never aware of the infamous bounty program in which his team admitted to taking part.

"I do feel a responsibility to my teammates, the Saints organization and to the fans, to address the "bounty" allegations," Brees wrote in a letter posted Friday on his foundation's website. "There is no place in the National Football League, or any sport played at any level, for players to conspire, to be coerced, or to be incentivized to intentionally injure another player. I did not participate in any bounty program, nor did I have any knowledge relating to its real existence."

Many former players say "bounty" incentive programs have existed in professional football for a long time. Players, who question why this scandal is shocking so many fans, say football is a violent sport built around punishing opponents.

LaVar Arrington, a former Washington Redskins linebacker who writes the Hard Hits blog for The Washington Post, wrote after the investigation that the best players in the history of football have always brought a "seek and destroy mentality" to the game.

"So in a culture where it's an unwritten part of the game to get the best opposing player out of it, that's what players have done and still do to this day. The fact that there's such outrage appears to be a bit strange to me," Arrington wrote on his blog.

The NFL said the bounty program was a clear violation of rules intended to protect "player safety and competitive integrity."

soundoff (302 Responses)
  1. Joe McGrath

    See I TOLD Reggie Dunlop that you can't put a bounty on a player's head!

    March 21, 2012 at 1:36 pm | Report abuse |
  2. mfox

    this is ridiculous. Every team does this from High School to the Pro's. Its a game of hard knocks.
    way too steep... there will be lawsuits over this. The player suspensions haven't been handed down yet. If it is this steep on coaches and management, what are they going to hand down on the players. The saints will have to play with Scabs. Roger Goodell is an idiot.

    March 21, 2012 at 1:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Step

      Absolutely will be law suits... By players AGAINST the Saints.

      March 21, 2012 at 1:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • shura53

      roger goodall is an intelligent man trying to clean up the image of this sport. the thug mentality of some ppl is so strange to me why not just bring your guns to the game and shoot the quaterback instead of just putting him out for the game....the integrity of the game has to protected and this is a good start.

      March 21, 2012 at 1:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • CoachT

      x277, you are the idiot. This bounty thing does not happen from HS to the Pros. Mutual respect is taught and expected. Maybe back in the 60's or 70's but now you do not try to end someone's livlihood. There are some bad apples out there as in life itself, but the penalties fit the crime. The NFL notified each team in writing about the QB issues and have also changed the rules themselves. So the Saints absolutly went against the NFL. Doubt any other teams will be participating in the practice now. The NFL is the second greatest sport today, only behind College football.

      March 21, 2012 at 1:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Idiot!! are an idiot, I played in the 90s and it happened in every team I had friends play for from Little League through College (I didn't and don't know anyone in the NFL but I bet it happens on every team)!!! Get a clue and stop being so nieve!!!

      March 21, 2012 at 2:13 pm | Report abuse |
  3. PJ

    Fire them both.

    March 21, 2012 at 1:38 pm | Report abuse |
  4. mike hawk

    And the Patriots can steal superbowls with no repercussions.


    March 21, 2012 at 1:38 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Gort01

    so mfox: just cuz every team does it, that makes it ok? Its disgusting, trying to cripple and injure players to win a the game fair,,win fair

    March 21, 2012 at 1:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Yes

      YES cause if EVERY team does it then the playing field is FAIR!!!! LOL

      March 21, 2012 at 2:15 pm | Report abuse |
  6. patw2100

    Just another example of Obama and his liberal drones taking away our freedoms and rights.

    March 21, 2012 at 1:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sandra

      patw2100 – what does the President have to do with this? Idiot!!!

      March 21, 2012 at 1:45 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Mosin Nagant

    And why is this the top story on CNN. Bread and circus for the dumbed down masses I guess.

    March 21, 2012 at 1:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Duh

      Because the NFL is a $20 billion/year industry. Millions of Americans love the NFL.

      March 21, 2012 at 1:45 pm | Report abuse |
  8. John W

    What time does the rioting start?

    March 21, 2012 at 1:38 pm | Report abuse |
  9. sevr4

    Assault and battery charges need to be filed, along with conspiracy to commit a crime.
    Suspended? Should have been fired.

    They could have ruined someone's career.

    March 21, 2012 at 1:38 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Robyn

    Louisiana Criminal Law
    Revised Statute 14

    §34.1. Second degree battery

    A. Second degree battery is a battery when the offender intentionally inflicts serious bodily injury; ...

    B. ..., "serious bodily injury" means bodily injury which involves unconsciousness, extreme physical pain or protracted and obvious disfigurement, ...

    C. Whoever commits the crime of second degree battery shall be fined not more than $2,000 or imprisoned, with or without hard labor, for not more than 5 years, or both.


    §28. Inciting a felony

    A. Inciting a felony is the endeavor by one or more persons to incite or procure another person to commit a felony.

    B. Whoever commits the crime of inciting a felony shall be fined not more than $1,000, or imprisoned, with or without hard labor, for not more than 2 years, or both.

    March 21, 2012 at 1:38 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Geoff in Canada

    Maybe the NHL should look at the Crosby situation in Pittsburg !

    March 21, 2012 at 1:39 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Alaska

    They should suspend the whole team, loooooosers.

    March 21, 2012 at 1:39 pm | Report abuse |
  13. twh

    The Lions anyone? The way they played this past season it's like they were purposely trying to hurt people. Way too many penalties and illegal contacts.

    March 21, 2012 at 1:39 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Jasmine

    I think they all got what was coming. How unsportsmanlike of them. The game of football is to get the ball down the field . Not who we can injure and knockout. Where are their ethics and morals? This goes against everything about being a good athlete and not to mention cowardly.

    March 21, 2012 at 1:39 pm | Report abuse |
  15. George Bush

    Football is a gladiatorial blood sport. This is denial. Without the deadly possibilities fans would look for blood somewhere else like NASCAR.

    March 21, 2012 at 1:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Duh

      You completely miss the point. Of course, by its nature, football is violent, even gladiatorial. It is one thing to hit the crap out of someone legally. It is another to purposely hit a person in a way that will injure them. Every player knows the difference. Obviously one can get hurt getting hit legally and at times there are unintentional illegal hits, but THAT is what the players consent to. No player consents to purposely being injured.

      March 21, 2012 at 1:49 pm | Report abuse |
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